Monday, December 31, 2012

SNR Playlist #4 King Animal

On our last podcast, Jon and I talked about bands selling out. Mainly the difference between selling out to the man, and selling out stadiums. For a minute, I think I was trying to nail down what album I would cover, when I got enough time to do some research and write another playlist segment. It was in between Cee Lo Greens new Christmas album, and Soundgardens new(ish) album, King Animal.

Clearly I chose the latter. I've loved Soundgarden since I was a little kid and figured out how to tune the radio to the local rock station. Most of the Superunknown singles were still on the air in regular rotation at that point, but what really caught my attention was 'Blow Up the Outside World'. It's still one of my favorite songs by them, and in general, to this day, I love the stuck in a cavern vocals, and the typical super ballsy Matt Cameron drumming, Chris and Kim's guitars, and the opposing/walking bass that Ben Shepard had come up with. 

I was pretty wrecked when they called it quits. Way more wrecked than when Rage broke up. Soundgarden was a little more musical for me, and I'm a sucker for good song structure. I'm more of a pre-pro guy at heart than I would like to admit most time.

Over the past few years, there have been hints, and they've released a few compilations, which were good, but not what I wanted. I wanted another rock and roll album. A real album. Something that reminded me that good big rock and roll wasn't totally dead. The Foos are amazing, but I wanted something to help them out. 

Then it happened. Studio rehearsal shots with all the guys. I about lost it. I didn't listen to anything but grunge for almost a month. Thankfully my wife didn't mind too much. I guess it was better than math rock.

Anyways, lets get to the album, and out of my child/adulthood dreams.

The opening track 'Been Away Too Long' is just what an opening track should be; big, ballsy, and angry. The second track is what literally got me head banging in my car, until the back beat kicked in. 

Goosebumps, a nervous twitch and me roaring "Yeaaah!" followed. 

I was pretty impressed to find out that Ben Shepard had written the music for it. Having cycled through about a dozen bands, and a ton more songwriting sessions that I've sat in on, it's pretty awesome that the bass player wrote my favorite song on the album (we're not always just the worst guitar player in the band).

Let's get over to the technical side of things, before I go through every song on this thing.

Back to the selling out thing. They sell out stadiums. For days on end. That is all.

They've all obviously got the money, so why not do this album the best that they could. And, personally, I think they did. The best for them, and their music. Yeah, everyone goes to JJP or CLA to mix their stuff, but they wanted a more raw, more... Soundgarden sound, if you will.

From the start of the recording process, they went Sam Hofstedt. He worked on Down on the Upside, and other stuff for them. Not to mention Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Deftones, you know, just little guys mostly.

The project was recorded at Studio X in Seattle. Which makes me happy to know that they're still ok with where they came from (not selling out like total douches)

The A room there is set with PT7 HD3, and all processed with an SSL 4000 64 channel desk, and pretty much all top of the line stuff, as you would imagine. Here's a link to the gear PDF for all of the super nerds like us out there. Studio X A room Gear  

From there they took it to Joe Barresi to mix. Mr. Barresi has also covered a killer range of albums, from Tool's 10,000 Days, to The Spiderman 2 soundtrack, to Tom Petty. Dude has some sick chops. He's totally on the top 10 list of my favorite mix engineers of all time. Joe also mixes on an SSL 4000 desk, because, well, they don't call it the hit maker for nothing, 

Now, I've mentioned Sterling Sound before. It's where most big productions get mastered. For a good reason. They're the best. The mastering engineer was a guy by the name of Ted Jensen. His album credits are in the thousands. He started out with Hotel California by The Eagles and worked with some other stuff like Billy Joel's Piano Man, and Green Day's American Idiot.

As I'm continuing to listen to this album, while I'm writing this, I can say that there isn't a single thing that I would change, anywhere in the process of this recording. A lot of the time, I'll hear at least a couple things on big albums, that I would like to hear a little differently, and most certainly I always kick myself when I get a finished product back, and get a ton more ideas for things I could have done differently. Not this time. I even like the few little timing issues, and off note slides, that may or may not have been left on purpose. Yes, I'm aware how much production goes in on something like this, but I love that there's still nuances of imperfection in there, to let you know that it's not all programmed and replaced. It's what rock and roll is about kids.


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